James Bond Returns and Cinemas See Reason for Hope

LOS ANGELES – Movie theaters are finally recovering from the pandemic, with solid attendance this weekend for the latest James Bond show, “No time to die, Giving Hollywood its third box office success in the space of a month. For multiplex chains battered by coronaviruses, this is the reason for a party martini.

But the box office is still extremely fragile, analysts say, and one of the doomsday scenarios for the pandemic’s lasting impact on theatrical releases has come true: the only films that garner considerable attention in theaters. are the big budget franchise movies. Small drama and comedy audiences seem – at least for the time being – to be happy with home viewing, either by purchasing films via video on demand or watching them on streaming services.

“Superhero, action and horror films work well in theaters, especially when offered exclusively and not simultaneously available to stream,” said David A. Gross, who heads Franchise Entertainment. Research, a film consulting company. “But parts of the business remain down. Dramas, character-driven films, and arthouse films were under pressure before the pandemic, and the bar is going to be even higher now. “

“No Time to Die”, presented as the 25th installment in the Bond franchise and with Daniel craig in his fifth and final round as 007, grossed about $ 56 million at 4,407 theaters in the United States and Canada, according to Comscore. In partial overseas release, “No Time to Die” raised an additional $ 257 million, according to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and its overseas distribution partner, Universal Pictures International. (Amazon bought MGM for $ 8.5 billion this year.)

Due to the pandemic, more and more moviegoers have pushed back ticket purchase decisions until the last minute, analysts say, making it difficult for studios to predict how a movie will perform. At the start of the weekend, national estimates for “No Time to Die” ranged from $ 36 million to over $ 70 million, according to the research company that was making the prognosis. The film’s franchise predecessor, “Specter,” grossed $ 70.4 million in North America during its first three days in 2015.

“No time to die”, which received strong reviews and an A-minus rating from ticket buyers in CinemaScore’s exit polls, was the first major film to be affected by the pandemic. It was originally scheduled to hit theaters in April 2020. MGM and the London-based producers who control the franchise, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, postponed release to November 2020, and then again to this month.

Theaters retain about 50 percent of total ticket sales, meaning the costly “No Time to Die” is unlikely to generate any profit for MGM. The film cost around $ 250 million to make and an additional $ 150 million to market worldwide. But the film sold enough tickets in its first three days in theaters to be considered a success, in part because of interest from older ticket buyers, who avoided theaters due to problems with coronavirus.

According to Erik Lomis, president of distribution at United Artists Releasing, a subsidiary of MGM, about 36% of weekend viewers in North America were over 45 and about 57% were over 35. Mr Lomis said exit polls showed 25 percent of ticket buyers had not been to the theater for 18 months.

“This is a really big deal and shows the power of Bond,” Mr. Lomis said. “This movie is going to remind a lot of people how much fun it is to go to the movies, and it will hopefully help the whole industry. We need a more mature audience to come back.

Greg Durkin, the founder of Guts and Data, a film research company, said “No Time to Die” had a “fantastic” opening weekend, “especially considering the audience mix and the way that older moviegoers have been more hesitant to return to the movies. ”Mr. Durkin estimated that without the pandemic,“ No Time to Die ”would have reached about $ 62 million in domestic ticket sales.

“No Time to Die” came after the superhero sequel “Venom: let there be carnage(Sony) raised $ 90 million in North American theaters between October 1 and October 3 – the highest opening weekend of the pandemic era. The worldwide total for “Let There Be Carnage” now stands at $ 186 million. Another superhero film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings” (Disney-Marvel) sold around $ 75 million in tickets in its first three days in theaters in early September, setting a record for Labor Day weekend (pandemic or other). He has since raised $ 400 million worldwide.

But films that aren’t fantasies or are part of existing franchises have struggled, adding to concerns that post-pandemic-era cinemas will offer much less variety. The concern is that old-fashioned studios will redirect most foreign dramas, comedies, documentaries and films to streaming services, as they did during the pandemic, leaving theaters to become even more of a film business like theme park. .

Recent theatrical disappointments have included “Dear Evan Hansen,” a big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical; “Tammy Faye’s eyes”, about the overly emotional televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker; “Respect”, a bio-music by Aretha Franklin with Jennifer Hudson; and the arthouse drama “Bayou blue. “Clint Eastwood’s latest film,“ Cry Macho, ”and the popular period drama“ The Many Saints of Newark ”both reached muted ticket sales, in part because Warner Bros. released them. simultaneously in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service.

So far this year, the art film distributor Magnolia Pictures released 17 films that raised around $ 1 million at the combined North American box office, according to the IMDb Pro database. In 2019, Magnolia released 16 films which grossed around $ 6 million.

The weeks and months ahead will either compound or ease concerns, as studios begin to release a more steady stream of franchise-free films, including sophisticated offerings with Oscar aspirations. “The Last Duel”, a historical drama drama directed by Ridley Scott and starring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jodie comer and Adam Driver, will be released in theaters exclusively on Friday. “The French dispatch, Directed by Wes Anderson and starring an all-star cast, is slated for an exclusive theatrical release on October 22.

“We need studios to release a wider range of films,” said Patrick Corcoran, spokesperson for the National Association of Theater Owners, which represents 35,000 movie screens in the United States. “Right now, theaters are like grocery stores where you can only buy steak,” he continued, referring to effects shows. “People also want grain. They also want fresh fruits and vegetables.

Kayleen C. Rice

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